Friday, March 15, 2013
THE LOVERS ON THE BRIDGE (1991) -
Location, location, location. It's not just a real estate game-changer. Sometimes, it's a career rejuvenator, too. By letting his camera run ape-shit in the real live streets, bridges, tunnels, drunk tanks, waterways, highways of Paris in pursuit of his bat-shit mad vagrant lovers (Denis Lavant and Juliette Binoche), Carax pulls every last trick out of his hat and makes a stunning leap from stylish upstart to master director in just one film.
Supposedly, securing the Pont Neuf bridge (and later a replication thereof) was a years-in-the-making nightmare for Carax. You wouldn't know it though by looking at this film. Lovers on the Bridge is one of those rare movies that knocks the wind out of you the first time you see it. Whether it's the documentary realism of Lavant being hauled into a homeless shelter with real Parisian street people, the surrealism of a one-eyed Juliette Binoche water skiing down the Seine, or this classic real-yet-very-unreal scene of Lavant and Binoche spazzing out on the bridge to a mix-tape of a songs (Johann Strauss to Iggy Pop to Public Enemy then back to classical!) as fireworks pop off all around them, it has the feel of something fleshy, messy, exuberant. Something very much alive.
Once again, Lavant plays a lost and wondering romantic (again named Alex, again with the sedatives), more destitute this time and possibly more possessive. Binoche is another artistically-inclined dreamer. This time, she's more fucked-up, borderline homicidal and on the verge of losing her eyesight. Basically, it's a darker version of the unrequited ardor from Boy Meets Girl and Bad Blood. But the execution is less stilted, less of a pose than in both of those films. It's heartfelt, over-the-top, dangerously unhinged.